Written end of July 2020
This too shall pass…
Many years ago I went through a period in my life where I suffered from anxiety in a big way.
I was a working mother of 3 young children, trying to be a super Mom, wife, daughter, employee…you name it. I wanted everything in my life to be perfect like in the House and Home magazine that I bought faithfully, and I wanted to be everything to everyone with no exceptions.
My days were stressful to say the least. I would get up at 5am to soak in my tub and enjoy some alone time before embarking on my daily routine or not depending on if one of the kids woke up sick or god forbid we were faced with yet another PD day, which meant driving to my parents for drop off and pick up or negotiating with my husband who should stay home to look after them. On a normal day, I would make lunches; drop kids off at 3 separate places by 8:00am so I could make it to work for 8:30am; work till 4:30pm; pick up at least one child (my husband looked after 2 for pick up); make supper; partake in extra – curricular activities (soccer; swimming; cross country skiing; dance; play dates; birthday parties to name a few); tackle homework and finish the day off lying in bed squeezed between my 3 beauties, reading a bedtime story, and drifting off into a deep sleep, waking only to crawl into my own bed.
Every day there were challenges. I was always running late (got a speeding ticket grooving to Ricky Martin while trying to get my kids to my parents before work on Remembrance Day to prove it); a parking lot attendant at work gave me a funny look which pissed me off and I later discovered that I had left a velcro roller in my hair which was still perched on the top of my head. Oh and then there was snack – for nursery school and soccer. What is that all about anyway? I had three kids so let me tell you that this adds up to a heck of a lot of snacks. I was always forgetting that it was my turn. I would be sitting on the soccer field chatting it up with the other moms and someone would mention the word snack. I would hightail it to Freshmart, in Chelsea, to grab a box of popsicles or even worse store bought cookies! All the stay at home moms (and there were many) put together a spread of cheese cubes, crackers, and fruit or home made muffins or something or other. I gave up on the attempt to keep up early on in the game, and eventually, just let it go. All of the kids much preferred my snacks, which were loaded with sugar. And then, there was the infamous Christmas celebration at school and every child had to bring a tourtière (preferably homemade of course). There was always something and as I think back this was a stressful time in my life!
I was one of those Moms who felt guilty about working and spent every breathing moment figuring out how I could make it up to them. Plus, I genuinely loved spending as much time with my girlies as possible. On my days off from work I would take them everywhere and create all kinds of opportunities for meaningful engagement. We had annual rituals that we never skipped – Christmas lights on parliament Hill; Santa Claus parade; Christmas decorating party with their friends; Halloween parties; hikes in the park; festivals; swimming at the wave pool; March Break excursions; summer holidays in Niagara Falls; trips to the cottage. Oh and can’t forget Easter, which meant colouring easter eggs naturally with beet juice and coffee who does that and more importantly, why?? Magazines…they make it sound so simple! I must have been a Martha Stewart wanna be. The stories I could share.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely loved every minute of it (maybe not the wave pool if I’m being completely honest) but one day I finally reached a breaking point and experienced my very first panic attack in the hallway at work. I actually thought I was having a stroke and someone called an ambulance and I ended up in the Emergency. I still remember sitting with the doctor on call and after asking me a few questions and she promptly said “You just had an allergic reaction to your life!” and sent me home.
This allergic reaction went on for quite some time, until I eventually learned that I didn’t have some neurological disorder but was experiencing panic attacks. Every time it happened, I honestly thought I was going to die and I was absolutely terrified.
Twenty years later here I am facing that same fear…the fear of dying.
Similar to years ago, I have been gifted with a debilitating illness that has stopped me in my tracks. The difference is I have learned how to manage that feeling of total panic. I have discovered different techniques to walk myself through this period of my life. Rather than fight the pain in my body I am choosing to experience it for what it is and do my best to breathe through it. Meditation and yoga have been my saviour. When I focus on my breath, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be alive and that I am still capable of doing so much, regardless of my pain and other symptoms I may be experiencing.
The art of mindfulness focuses on the present moment, forcing us to let go of the past and taking away the worry of tomorrow.
I have also given myself permission to look after myself and in doing so am better able to look after others, which fills my soul.
Travelling my path I have discovered joy in my pain and although this part of my journey has been difficult, I am hopeful that based on past experience, this too shall pass.